Young Goodman Brown: The Puritans and Love Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown”, exposes the puritan view of love and relationships. In theory, these two visions are diametrically opposed. One exalts love as a physical manifestation between two individuals (although it also claims to represent higher ideals), the other sees it as a spiritual need, one best manifested by attachment to God. In fact, the puritans did not see love as a good thing, but rather as an evil, a grim necessity, that is, they saw physical love (between a man and a woman, or sexuality and all it carries with it) as such. The emotional turmoil affecting Goodman Brown clearly expresses this.
The problem we find in this story, and in puritanism, is that it presents contrasting views of love. Attachment to earthly possessions, to other people in fact, is discouraged, because everything physical leads to temptation and damnation, and ultimately hell, while the road to salvation of the individual wanders through a spiritual discipline, rigour, austerity. A man should not love his wife more than he loves God; in fact, it is recommended that he not derive pleasure from his wife, but rather seek suffering, in order to redeem himself from his earthly condition, his impure state.
This conception of love can be traced back to the first chapters of the Bible, Genesis. Adam and Eve, in the garden of Eden, eat the forbidden fruit and are forever outcast from paradise, forced to suffer. The puritans argued that, if God wishes us to suffer, who are we to go against his wishes. We are sinners, because of the Original Sin, and it was Eve who gave the fruit to Adam, and therefore condemned all mankind (another strange notion is that of mankind - I find it odd we do not speak of humankind or womankind - but that is another essay topic) to forever be enslaved by sin.
This puritan notion eclipses the New Testament's message of redemption that we have been forgiven for Adam's fault, through Jesus' sacrifice. Instead, it clings to that original notion of impurity, of a stain on all men and women. It also clings to the fact that since women are the root of all evil, they should be especially feared. A man should not love his wife, or else face the consequences of the wrath of God.
If women are evil, and sex is evil, then men cannot in good conscience be with women, yet they must, for how else will the race continue? Puritanism condemns men to a constant state of uncertainty on their actions.
Goodman Brown is no exception, in fact, he seems to be the rule. He is recently married to a woman ironically named Faith, whom he loves dearly. He seems happily married, and yet, there is something odd with him at the start of the story. We sense he is a troubled man, and the source of his worries seem to be his wife.